Monday, June 06, 2022

#SKNDPLDR Candidate Profile - Kaitlyn Harvey

The flip side of Carla Beck's position as the ultra-establishment candidate - backed by most of the NDP's existing organizational structure, and using that position to play to those with the most wealth and power within the province - has been an obvious opening for an outsider candidate. And Kaitlyn Harvey has taken up that mantle with at least some success so far.

It helps that Harvey has a solid background for her campaign message, raising the prospect of representation for long-neglected groups (including a personal stake in the Saskatchewan Party's politics of neglect) combined with a strong professional background which leaves no room for question as to her credentials. 

Unfortunately, Harvey started the campaign at a severe disadvantage in name recognition and internal support, and it's doubtful that she'll be able to close the gap in a way that will affect the outcome of the campaign. And that isn't entirely attributable to the structure of the campaign. 

Even for some period of time after she entered the race, Harvey's campaign had little apparent public impact, including the glaring lack of public endorsements within the province until recently. While she's now starting to hold frequent events and receive visible shows of support, there looks to be too small a time frame in which to transition from convincing her natural core of activists to reaching the full breadth of the party membership - particularly when the voting window is already open.

In addition, there's also some reason for question whether Harvey's choice of messaging is right for an effort to convince voters to support an insurgent alternative. 

From the standpoint of a completely neutral, dispassionate observer, a mindset of risk assessment and mitigation would represent a highly valuable asset in the leader of a government. But there's precious little evidence that the message will resonate with anybody who needs to be convinced of the need for change.

Instead, there's inevitably at least some gap between what makes for the most responsible decision-making in power, and what will convince voters to offer their support. On that front, Harvey's message seems to have all the possible down-sides of Ryan Meili's evidence-based approach (which precluded definitive statements about possibilities which seemed to merit study rather than immediate promises), without the overarching positive vision of a "healthy society" as the end goal to be pursued. And her presentation in person tends toward a higher level of frustration (and lower level of optimism) than would seem ideal for a candidate whose success depends on the promise of something better. 

That said, Harvey is doing plenty both to raise questions which deserve discussion within the leadership campaign, and to boost her own profile as somebody who can shape the direction of the NDP and the province. And even the party stalwarts who have thrown in their lot with Beck would do well to ensure that Harvey and her critiques play a major role in the NDP's future. 

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